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Shorter Days, by Anna Katharina Hahn

“Don’t wanna meddle, hon, but sittin’ on the cold ground—that ain’t good for us gals. Who’re ya lookin’ for?” Frau Posselt’s heart-shaped face, adorned with gaudy glasses and colorful makeup, bent down to look into Judith’s. Judith raised her head from her book of poetry and blinked. A broad smile spread involuntarily across her face. The old woman’s squawking, the mink stole that encircled her shoulders like a shining snake, and the chubby, clownish face cheered her immeasurably, and she felt like bursting out laughing. It was only due to years of practice that she was able to keep her composure even when heavily medicated. With some effort she stood up and shook the woman’s hand. Then the words just started to flow out of her. Her explanations were accompanied by economical but nonetheless meaningful gestures. The autumn light fell on Judith’s faux-pearl necklace at a flattering angle. The old lady looked sympathetically at Judith’s light blue pullover, her Marlene Dietrich trousers, velvet jacket, and pumps. Judith hadn’t brought much with her: her old sock monkey, the chinese tea set, her bathrobe, cosmetics, a few mystery novels, Kafka, Anne Sexton, Hermann Lenz, and Mörike had all been pedantically wrapped in old copies of the Stuttgart News and piled into two boxes while binders, boxes of index cards, and laptop were left on her desk. Standing in front of the closet in her underwear, she had reached without hesitation for her professional clothes, the ones she’d bought for her internship at the gallery. They made her feel like an imposter, but they also made her feel elegant and protected. She packed a cotton nightgown, jeans, and her only pair of sneakers. Shiny mini-skirts, studded belts, dragon- or Madonna T-shirts, and the pile of stilettos for every season remained in the closet.
The old lady on the sidewalk smiled and nodded. Her friendliness and the enthusiam bordering on rapture with which she listened spurred Judith on as applause does an actor and made her keep talking, following a sudden whim. Her right arm traced an arc that included the moving boxes and the hiking backpack that lay next to it like an armless, legless torso, and came to lie in a gesture of blessing on her own body, somewhere in the region of her belly.
The old lady clapped her hands. “Aw, that makes me happy. M’name is Posselt, Luise Posselt. Ma husband ‘n me live on the first floor, two floors under the professor. He’s a good un. He’ll make a good daddy.” Judith smiled: “Yes, I’m very proud of Klaus.” It was a pleasant sensation to feel at home in a story that ended happily, to have someone’s sympathy and attention, at least for the duration of this conversation.